The Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox got the trade deadline off with a bang, and with so many teams needing to upgrade and a cluster of teams in the American League wild-card race, the next two weeks will be full of trade speculation and might even feature another blockbuster or two.
As teams pursue deals or a playoff spot, here is the most important thing for each team to achieve in the second half.
American League East
Boston Red Sox — Solving third base, where the Red Sox are hitting .235 with seven home runs, is the obvious need, and maybe top prospect Rafael Devers is the eventual answer.
But the most important thing might be getting David Price in the right frame of mind heading into the postseason, where his track record is notoriously poor. After a couple of incidents with the media, he has pitched better of late, with a 2.52 ERA in his final four starts heading into the All-Star break.
New York Yankees — Thanks to first-half MVP Aaron Judge, they’re second in the AL in runs scored, but they’ve done that despite a huge hole at first base. Greg Bird is still battling an ankle injury, and Chris Carter was released. The Yankees rank 29th in the majors in wOBA at first base, hitting a collective .198.
They just acquired Garrett Cooper, who is hitting .366 with 17 home runs at Triple-A Colorado Springs for the Brewers, but All-Star Yonder Alonso looks like a perfect trade candidate.
Faria has had a hot start to his career with a 2.11 ERA through six starts, including a sterling 37-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38⅓ innings. Former top prospect Snell is 0-5 in 10 starts, as he continues to walk too many batters.
Baltimore Orioles — The collapse of the starting rotation, a 5.75 ERA and disappointing seasons from Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo mean that the Orioles are unlikely playoff contenders, which might force Dan Duquette into trading relievers Zach Britton and Brad Brach as the O’s look to add some young talent to a weak farm system.
Toronto Blue Jays — The front office has to decide whether to write off 2017 as a bad year and regroup in the offseason or view this as an aging club in decline. The offense has fallen from first in the AL in runs in 2015 to 14th. If the Blue Jays decide to sell, that could mean shopping Josh Donaldson, who is eligible for free agency after 2018. The team most in need of a third baseman, however, is the division rival in Boston. Donaldson for Devers?
American League Central
With Danny Salazar on the DL and Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin scuffling, Mike Clevinger has become the de facto No. 3 starter behind Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. As such, the Indians need Salazar or Bauer to figure things out or maybe need to consider adding some rotation depth.
Minnesota Twins — They’re hanging in there in the playoff race, but a minus-60 run differential suggests that it is unlikely to continue. That means the second half is still about the development of the young players, particularly Byron Buxton, who is trying to find some consistency at the plate so he can become something close to a league-average hitter.
The Royals are 29th in the majors in wOBA from left field and 29th from right field, so they need offense from those two spots. They might have to bite the bullet on Alex Gordon, who looks washed up, and see if Jorge Soler is a solution in left field. Rookie Jorge Bonifacio has at least provided league-average production in right since his call-up.
Detroit Tigers — J.D. Martinez will be a free agent, which means it’s pretty much a sure thing he’ll be traded. Justin Wilson has another season of team control, but a lot of teams will call about the power lefty with 49 strikeouts in 34.1 innings. It’s all about maximizing the return for those two.
Chicago White Sox — They made their big move in trading Jose Quintana to the Cubs and could still deal David Robertson, but it’s time to call up Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Yoan Moncada from Triple-A and give them two-plus months in the majors. None is tearing it up at Charlotte, but at this point, they need to be challenged and learn against the best.
American League West
Houston Astros — They have a couple of questions to address, such as whether to call up Derek Fisher and play him in left field or DH, but the absolute most important thing is getting Dallas Keuchel healthy and back in the rotation. He has been out since June 2 because of a neck injury, and his health might determine whether the Astros go after another starting pitcher, such as Sonny Gray.
Los Angeles Angels — It’s 2017, fly balls are leaving the park like Marlins fans in the seventh inning of the All-Star Game, and Angels first basemen are hitting .211/.274/.332, numbers barely acceptable for a middle infielder in 1974.
Sure, getting Mike Trout back and slugging .742 the rest of the way will help, but the Angels need something from first base.
Texas Rangers — Rougned Odor has a .260 OBP, Mike Napoli has a .273 OBP, and Jonathan Lucroy has a .303 OBP. That was supposed to be the meat of the Rangers’ lineup. They can look to make a trade to add pitching, but unless those three do better at getting on base, the Rangers won’t be playing baseball in October.
Seattle Mariners — The Mariners are kind of stuck, with a poor first half that leaves them looking up in the wild-card race but without a farm system that will allow them to make any significant additions. They can bring this team back for 2018, so a key in the second half is figuring out if young starters such as Andrew Moore and Sam Gaviglio are legitimate rotation options for next season.
Oakland Athletics — Alonso is a free agent, and Gray is having a comeback season. Billy Beane and David Forst will be making a lot of phone calls the next two weeks.
National League East
Washington Nationals — “Hello, this is Mike Rizzo. I’m looking for some bullpen help. Yes, your entire bullpen.”
Atlanta Braves — Besides determining whether the Freddie Freeman experiment at third base can be a real thing, the development of Dansby Swanson is huge. He’s hitting just .221/.296/.324 with 77 strikeouts in 85 games in a poor first half.
Miami Marlins — The potential sale of the team by owner Jeffrey Loria looms over the second half. Three bids are reportedly in to Loria, with big names such as Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Tom Glavine and rapper Pitbull involved in some of the groups. The favorite, however, might be South Florida billionaire Jorge Mas.
New York Mets — Don’t say it … don’t even go there … it’s a ridiculous idea … I’m going to say it: WILL TIM TEBOW BE CALLED UP IN SEPTEMBER?
Philadelphia Phillies — They might make a minor trade or two, such as Pat Neshek and Jeremy Hellickson, but the most important thing is Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco and minor leaguer J.P. Crawford showing improvement after terrible first halves.
National League Central
Milwaukee Brewers — They’ll probably add a bullpen arm and maybe a starter, but to hold on to first place over the Cubs, they’ll need Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson to match their first halves. Nelson went 8-4 with a 3.30 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 109 innings, finally showing the command to match his stuff. Anderson had a 2.89 ERA but is currently on the DL because of an oblique strain.
Chicago Cubs — Acquiring Quintana will help the rotation, but the offense needs to step it up. The Cubs are averaging 4.53 runs per game, just below the NL average of 4.62; in 2016, they averaged 4.99 runs, more than a half-run better than the average of 4.44.
St. Louis Cardinals — The bullpen has borne the brunt of the criticism, and though they’ve lost only two games they led going into the ninth inning, the relievers are just 8-16 and rank 14th in the majors in win probability added. But some of that blame goes to the offense: The Cards are hitting .202/.285/.351 in late and close situations. They need better late-game clutch performance from the hitters as well as the relievers.
Pittsburgh Pirates — Andrew McCutchen’s OPS+ in 2017: 135. His career OPS+: 138. After posting a 1.193 OPS in June and 1.292 so far in July, McCutchen has re-established his trade value, and for a team looking for a corner outfielder, he suddenly looks like a good fit. Will the Pirates deal the face of their franchise? If they were closer in the playoff race, maybe they keep him and make a run, but they’re 42-47. Look for a deal to happen.
Cincinnati Reds — The rotation owns a 5.91 ERA, which would be the worst since the 2005 Royals had a 6.00 mark. The one guy having a good season is Scott Feldman, and he’ll probably be traded. The second half should be about giving innings to guys such as Amir Garrett, Luis Castillo and Cody Reed to see if any of them has the potential to fill a spot in the 2018 rotation.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers — They have the second-best bullpen ERA in the majors, but they should make a move for a lefty reliever to use with righty Pedro Baez in front of Kenley Jansen. Britton and Wilson would be excellent candidates, as well as San Diego’s Brad Hand. If the Dodgers want to work a bigger deal with the Tigers, bringing in Martinez to play left field would add a power right-handed bat to the lineup.
Arizona Diamondbacks — Speaking of Martinez, the D-backs could use an upgrade in the outfield, where they rank 24th in the majors in wOBA in left field. Yasmany Tomas isn’t good, and he’s on the DL, which means they’re faking left field with bench guys such as Daniel Descalso, Gregor Blanco, Chris Herrmann and Rey Fuentes (all of whom started in left field last week).
Colorado Rockies — I keep pounding this home, but the Rockies have only three regulars with an OPS above league average. Carlos Gonzalez has arguably been the worst regular in the majors, and if his shoulder isn’t 100 percent healthy, they need to find a solution. Maybe that’s Gerardo Parra or Raimel Tapia, or maybe the Rockies should pursue Martinez as well.
San Diego Padres — They’ll probably trade Hand and maybe Trevor Cahill, but the second half is mostly about the continued development of young guys such as Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Austin Hedges and Carlos Asuaje.
San Francisco Giants — They’re 64-98 since last year’s All-Star break, so the front office has to take a long look at which veterans will still be here in 2018 and whether this group can regain its mojo next season. Trade options are minimal: maybe Brandon Belt, and maybe Johnny Cueto, except his opt-out clause means that his trade value is somewhat limited.